By Kevin Werner • METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP
The decision by Education Minister Laurel Broten to repeal Bill 115 shows the Liberals have no interest in solving Ontario’s fiscal crisis, says Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak.
“They are opening up the floodgates to more spending that we can’t afford,” said Hudak at his New Year’s Levée, Jan. 6, at the 447 Wing R.C.A.F.A. in Mount Hope.
Broten announced last week she is using Bill 115 to impose a two-year contract that includes a wage freeze and cuts benefits on public elementary and secondary school teachers. But the Liberals are prepared to repeal the legislation by the end of January because it has become a “lightning rod” for attention. The teachers’ unions have challenged the legal implications of the bill in court, arguing it eliminates their collective bargaining rights.
Hudak said he is also not confident that any of the other Liberal candidates vying to replace out-going premier Dalton McGuinty will solve the province’s $14.8-billion deficit. He said most of the candidates have already stated they would repeal the bill as well.
Instead, the Tories, who voted with the Liberals to pass Bill 115, have repeatedly stated the province needs an across-the-board wage freeze for all public servants that would save taxpayers about $2 billion annually.
“The Liberal leadership candidates have signaled that is the path to ramp up spending,” he said. “(They) are putting their own party interests ahead of the interests of taxpayers and students.”
Hudak, who was accompanied by his wife Deb Hutton and their daughter, Miller, spent nearly two hours at the 447 Wing facility meeting with a long line of supporters. Also attending the event was Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale Progressive Conservative candidate Donna Skelly, Haldimand-Norfolk Tory MPP Toby Barrett, and Glanbrook councillor Brenda Johnson.
Hudak also attended another levée at Peninsula Ridges Estates Winery in Beamsville later in the day.
The Tory leader expressed concern that some Liberal candidates would like to keep the House from sitting even after the Jan. 25-27 party leadership race is over.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Liberals don’t call the House back into session,” said Hudak. “They have clearly demonstrated they are more concerned with their internal issues than governing the province.”
In a Jan. 6 debate, four of the leadership candidates – Gerard Kennedy, Kathleen Wynne, Eric Hoskins and Harinder Takhar – stated they would bring back the Legislature as soon as possible. Wynne said in a news conference she would call the Legislature back in February.
Meanwhile, as Hamilton prepares to hold two public meetings on whether to allow a casino in the downtown area, Hudak said his party proposed legislation that would allow municipalities to hold a referendum on allowing new gaming sites. MPP Monte McNaughton introduced the private member’s bill.
Last year, NDP leader Andrea Horwath called on the Liberals to stop the OLG’s tendering process to allow municipalities to hold a referendum on the issue.
Hudak wants the province to shut down the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s plans to modernize gaming, which has already resulted in the closure of horse racing tracks, including Fort Erie. The plan also called for the elimination of the Slots at Racetracks Program, a long-standing profit-sharing agreement that is slated to end March 31, 2013.
“The (approach) by the OLG should be put on the shelf,” Hudak said. “We should build what we currently have.”
He says the idea to close Flamboro Downs to make way for another casino in the city is a waste of money and time.
“Why not build up what already exists and works?” said Hudak. “Why wouldn’t you have (blackjack, roulette) in Flamborough, as opposed to plowing that (facility) under and losing jobs, to build something new at taxpayers’ expense?”